When it’s time to pick up a fall pumpkin, think outside the big box store and head to the pumpkin patch to support local farmers.
I love supporting small businesses, especially local small businesses. We live in the country surrounded by quite a few farms so we are lucky enough to be able to support multiple farming families. Our kids love going to the pumpkin patch and of course, my husband and I love seeing their faces light up with joy.
When you’re ready to add a pumpkin to your festive decor, find your local pumpkin patch and take the kids to pick out their own pumpkins. It is so much more fun to walk the fields and harvest your own pumpkin than it is to just pick one up at the store. You’ll make wonderful family memories along the way.
Types of pumpkins to look for at the pumpkin patch
We all know and love the traditional 10-25 pound (4.5-11kg) pumpkins used for carving into jack o’lanterns, and that’s probably what you’ll be headed to the pumpkin patch in search of, but there are so many other amazing pumpkins to be on the lookout for.
One of the most vibrant pumpkins you’ll see is a boston marrow. I was so excited to see these beauties locally. If you haven’t tried them, they are delicious. Yes, you can eat them! They have a custard-like flesh that is very buttery. They are great for stuffing and perfect if you’re feeding a group. These medium sized pumpkins are usually 10-20 pounds (4.5-9kg) and are a beautiful addition to your fall decorations.
I also love baby blue hubbard. If you look closely, you’ll notice it looks very similar to the boston marrow. They are both considered hubbard squash but have slightly different characteristics. If you’re looking for another pumpkin to add to your fall decor, both will stand out well. You can also eat both. The inside of the baby blue hubbard is a brilliant yellow to orange color. It is striking against the blue exterior. The taste is surprisingly similar to a sweet potato. You can cook it in the oven the same way you would cook acorn squash.
If you have a Disney fan in the family, they will love these Cinderella pumpkins. I was beaming with excitement when I discovered them. Cinderella pumpkins typically weigh between 15-40 pounds (7-18 kg). Keep that in mind when choosing one as most farms charge by the weight of the pumpkin. They are completely worth it though. These aren’t pumpkins that you’ll want to eat though. Could you imagine cutting such a large pumpkin to fit in your oven? They don’t have much of a taste, so using them as ornamental pumpkins is a much better idea.
Speaking of ornamental pumpkins, don’t forget the little ones. I love jack be little pumpkins. They are great for festive table centerpieces and are also perfect for children’s little hands. We have quite a few of them at the moment as our children pick out handfuls each time they see them at a pumpkin patch or farm stand. They are pretty tiny for carving, but they can be carved. Our children love to paint them. They keep longer if you don’t carve them, so I lead the children in that direction.
How to pick the right pumpkin
There are many more varieties of pumpkins; these are just a few that are grown here in Virginia, USA. No matter which kind you find, picking out the perfect one is so much fun. Make sure to bring someone along strong enough to carry them back to the farm stand though or take a wagon. You never know what size pumpkin you’re going to end up with, or how many.
While searching for the perfect pumpkin, make sure not to step on the vines if you can avoid them. All of the pumpkins won’t ripen at the same rate, or be harvested at the same time. You want to make sure there’s still enough nutrients getting to the pumpkins that are left on the vines.
When searching through the fields for the perfect pumpkin, kids are likely to only look at the general characteristics of the pumpkin, so it is up to you to know what to look for. You’ll know the pumpkin is ripe and ready to be picked if you tap the pumpkin with an open palm and hear a deep hollow sound. You can have the children knock on the pumpkin and listen for the hollow sound as well. Our children think it’s very funny to knock on the pumpkins so that adds another element of fun to the day.
Next, look at the stem. If it is still green, then the pumpkin is young and taking in nutrients from the vine. If it is yellow or brown, the pumpkin is older and is no longer taking nutrients in. This means it has less water in it and will rot sooner than one with a green stem. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t the perfect pumpkin for you.
Now that you’ve listened and looked at the pumpkin, it’s time to test the firmness of the pumpkin. Try and lightly press your nail into the skin. If you can easily press your nail in, then the pumpkin isn’t ready to be harvested. Look for a pumpkin that has a dull color that you can’t easily press your nail into.
Finally, check the entire pumpkin for brown spots and wounds. Your pumpkin will rot faster if it already has either of these. The sooner the pumpkin is exposed to air, the faster it will rot. If you’re looking to store the pumpkins for a while, you want to make sure to have a blemish and wound free pumpkin.
Of course, you’re really at the pumpkin patch for the experience with your family and to support local farmers, so don’t stress too much about checking the pumpkins. If it makes the children smile, and it’s not going to make a mess, let them choose the unusual pumpkin or the pumpkin that is bigger than they are. Pumpkin season comes once a year, but the photos and memories will last a lifetime. Most importantly, have fun.